Samantha Worthen Talks ‘Banshee’ and Becoming Amish [Interview]
As Banshee nears the end of its second season, the cast and crew are getting ready to return to Charlotte, North Carolina to begin production of Season 3 in April, and Samantha Worthen, who plays Amish mom Miriam Bowman on the hit Cinemax series, is hoping she gets the call to come back to a city she has fallen in love with.
We caught up with Samantha last week via telephone from her home in Atlanta to talk about Banshee, becoming Amish, and working in North Carolina.
Read on for our full interview with Samantha Worthen!
“I had worked in Raleigh before, but I had not worked in Charlotte previously,” Samantha told us. “I’m a huge fan of North Carolina. I think it’s a beautiful state, and that’s only a plus to be working in some place that you like to be, and Charlotte itself is a dynamic city.
“When I’ve had some down time, it’s really great to explore the uptown area and walking around. I had a little bit of time where I stayed over, and there was this street festival going on, and I got to go to a museum. It just really made me want to go back and spend more time, go see a play and do some other cultural things there. The people are so warm. It’s great city to work in.
“I think the state has a lot to offer in terms of the landscape, the infrastructure, and it’s a great place to film.”
Worthen tells us that she had pretty much put her Banshee audition behind her and out of her mind when she learned that she would join the series in Season 1.
“I was out of the country at the time,” she recalls, “and just about a day or two before I was scheduled to come back, I got this audition. I was in a little bit of a quandary because I was out of the country and couldn’t really get anything on tape, but I was able to put it on tape and submit it as soon as I got back.
“A lot of times you usually have to let it go, and I did. Then I got this call, and I thought it was about something else, and they said, ‘You’re going to Banshee’.”
Samantha plays the Amish sister of Banshee‘s resident villain Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) and mother of Proctor’s newest protege Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons).
“My character is a woman of few words,” she said. “Miriam Bowman is married to Rebecca Bowman’s father and is the daughter of Israel Proctor (Alpha Trivette), and happens to be the sister of Kai Proctor. I view her as someone who is very faithful to her community and loves her family dearly, but is very obedient to the Amish way of life and has really struggled with what she needs to do to exist in that life.
“The script provided the basis for everything. It was a very well written script. I was a little familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch community as background. I had lived some in Pennsylvania, but I did do my own research as well. I read some books and I looked at some documentaries about Pennsylvania Dutch life, and I found that to be very helpful.”
Of her castmates, she says she was thrilled to find some familiar faces and is constantly impressed by the work of the entire ensemble.
“Alpha and I knew each other a little bit before we worked together,” Samantha said, “but we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better and I just think the world of him, which is great when he’s playing your father. Steve Coulter, who plays my husband, and I have known each other for years. It was a wonderful prize and treat to find out, number one, that we would be working together, and number two, that he would be my husband.
“I have genuine affection for everyone that I’ve worked with. Lili (Simmons) is just wonderful. From day one, she was very welcoming. We spent a lot of time together when I was up there for Episode 5 (Season 1), and that really helped us in building a relationship. Gunner Carrigan, who plays our son, is tremendous. He’s very fresh and real and honest. I’m very proud of the work he did especially this season.
“Ulrich Thomsen – you’ve got to hear his voice. He is just a tremendous talent.
“To be able to work this season with O.C. Madsen, I was a huge fan when I saw the episodes he directed in Season 1, and anybody that has not watched the season on DVD needs to listen to the commentary where he talks about that episode.
“One of the highlights for me and Steve was to be able to ride in our buggy. It’s actually hard getting in and out of a buggy in a dress. It’s counterintuitive to what you think. You think that you’re just going to hop up, but it’s actually like getting on and off of a horse. He’s the one that got the buggy driving lessons. I didn’t get my license yet.”
We also asked Samantha to talk about one of her most emotional scenes from Season 1, when Lili Simmons’ character of Rebecca was shunned from the Amish community.
“It was a big day,” Samantha remembers. “That was actually my first opportunity to work with Greg (Yaitanes, showrunner), and he was wonderful. We walked through everything and he gave us time.
“The crew was so respectful. Sometimes when you are doing an emotional a scene like that, you just have to go through your own process, and they were very understanding and supportive of that. I was very pleased with how it turned out.”
Banshee has proven to be a huge success for Cinemax with its multi-platform media-spanning form of expanding the universe within the show, through a graphic novel, online prequel webisodes, and Vine clips, all of which not only advertise but further the mythology of the ambitious series, and Worthen says that she sees the show as very innovative in this approach.
“I’m a huge fan,” she said. “I’ve watched every episode multiple times and followed along the storylines, so I was already hooked when I read my script and worked on Season 1. When I watched the season unfold, it was no surprise to me that it got picked up (for a second season). I was so excited, because I love the story.
“I think when you look at the production value of creating this world, people will comment once in a while that it’s almost like watching a series of movies. It’s very cinematic. It’s a rich world. You’ve got incredible talents behind the camera, in front of the camera, and all aspects down the line from wardrobe to set dressing to sound to editing. I’m not surprised.
“I started watching it unfold, just the interaction with fans on Twitter and all over social media, and I think it caught on in terms of how the entire team, through Cinemax and Greg Yaitanes and Jonathan Topper, put together this multilayered approach of reaching out to fans. You’ve got Origins on WelcomeToBanshee.com and you’ve got the comic. It’s a really innovative way to reach out to the fans and to broaden the audience.”
As a working actress based in Atlanta, which has developed its own very successful film tax incentive program in recent years, we had to ask Samantha about her thoughts on the ongoing film incentive debate in North Carolina.
“The Georgia film incentive evolved over time, but you can just look at all the statistics and see how the industry has really grown and benefited,” she said. “Also, within the state, you can see the bleed over into other industries. This would be true in North Carolina and any other state that has that kind of program, the bleed over effect, when you look at the ancillary industries that support (productions), whether it’s going to be restaurants or tourism.
“I sat in on a legislative hearing in Georgia a couple years ago, and a representative in the real estate industry got up to show some support for the legislation and talked about how he was able to, in a down turn of the housing market, change his strategy and work within trying to market some of his homes in terms of (shooting) locations.
“The key is that the incentives make it attractive, and it’s a competitive business. You have to have the infrastructure and the location, but you also have to have a business climate that’s going to make it attractive for a production to come and film in your state.”
While she could not give away any plot details of the next season, Samantha says she is hopeful and excited to return to work in North Carolina.
“I love it,” she said of Charlotte. “I appreciate the hospitality and the support. I went up for the premiere screening of Season 2, and everybody could not have been more welcoming and excited about the show filming there. It’s a great place. I look forward to going back to Charlotte sometime in the future. I want to dine there, go to the theater and spend down time there.
“It’s just a really great place to go to visit and to work.”
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